Permissible Arms

Kyrgyzstan, Mark II

Posted in kyrgyzstan by Karaka on 29 June 2010

As I was clearing out my queue in Read It Later (also known as the single most useful application for a 200-feed-strong RSS reader) I found a couple other Kyrgyzstan-related things to pass on. First, Human Rights Now has satellite images from Osh that show the extent of the damage and destruction done.

Comparison of buildings in the Cheremushki neighborhood, Osh (2007 vs. 2010). Houses without roofs indicate destruction by fire. After Image: © 2010 DigitalGlobe. Before Image: © 2010 DigitalGlobe © 2010 Google Earth. Produced by AAAS.

USIP had an event on Monday, Preventing Ethnic Violence in Kyrgyzstan: Too Little, Too Late?; I can’t find a podcast or video from it yet, but I’ll link to it should it appear.

The BBC news service reported Friday that externally displaced Kyrgyz citizens in Uzbekistan have been sent or encouraged home, the implication being that Kyrgyzstan wanted them back in the country for the constitutional referendum and Uzbekistan wasn’t real keen on massive refugee camps just inside its borders.

The UN Refugee Agency says that of the estimated 100,000 Uzbeks who crossed the border after ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, nearly all have returned.

It is unclear how many may have felt pressured to do so. Amnesty International says it has anecdotal evidence that some refugees were forced onto buses to Kyrgyzstan. This was done, the group said, by refugee camp guards and Uzbek security forces.

And The Monkey Cage had a post last week on Stopping Ethnic Pogroms in Kyrgyzstan; it talks about the ramifications of carrying minimal geopolitical weight and the political bind at home and abroad the Kyrgyzstan finds itself in. [As an aside, for all that TCM gets linked hither and yon, it’s one of those odd blogs that doesn’t get a lot of conversation going in the comments. Weird. ]

I don’t know that the referendum and the return of externally displaced refugees is really any sign of future stability; it seems like there’s a good chance rioting and violence could be incited once again by a very determined group of people. Especially when there’s 400,000 people in the city who no longer have homes to go back to. But we can hope.

Referendums, Asylums, and Aid in Kyrgyzstan

Posted in kyrgyzstan by Karaka on 29 June 2010

I’ve been reading continuously on Kyrgyzstan, but with the whole McChrystal flap I haven’t had a chance to post about it. It looks like the violence has calmed down, either because of time or because of Roza Otunbayeva’s call for assistance from the OCSE–which doesn’t even meet until Thursday (1 July). So, spontaneous calm? Either way, the nation has successfully passed the new constitution without further violence or unrest, which says something about things returning to normal.

More than 90 percent voted “yes” in Sunday’s referendum, with 5 percent of the ballots remaining to be counted, said Central Elections Committee spokeswoman Galina Skripkina. About 8 percent voted against it. Some 2.7 million people were eligible to vote, and turnout was nearly 70 percent, she said.

…The referendum – supported by the U.N., the U.S. and Russia – is seen as an important step on the road to democracy for the interim government, which came to power after former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April following deadly street protests. The new constitution strips power from the president and gives more authority to parliament.

Otunbayeva will be confirmed as a continued interim president until elections are held, possibly still on-time for this fall if peace continues. However, 400,000 Kyrgyz citizens are still displaced, both externally and internally. That must be dealt with over the summer, which may be the role OCSE ends up playing in Kyrgyzstan.

Spiegel has an interview with Otunbayeva that most covers existing ground, but does confirm Steve Levine’s point that Kyrgyzstan was indeed in contact with the US, though not for full-scale police aid. And the plot thickens–or at least trundles along–for the ousted Bakiyevs, as Bakiyev Jr. claims asylum in Britain. I’m of the opinion that Cameron will assert his foreign power cred by denying any extradition requests to Kyrgyzstan.

Registan has ways you can help out Kyrgyzstan and its citizens.

The last several weeks have been a big step–good or bad–for Kyrgyzstan on the world stage. Here’s hoping the next flurry of articles is about an election, rather than a riot.

Photorealism (Images from Kyrgyzstan)

Posted in kyrgyzstan by Karaka on 18 June 2010

I know, I know, I link to The Big Picture at least a couple of times a month. But the editor does wonderful work compiling these images on controversial or current affairs, and it’s some breathtaking photojournalism. Take, for example, this week’s spread on Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbek refugees seen in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, near the border with Uzbekistan, Monday, June 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Faruk Akkan,CHA)

Ethnic Uzbeks walk between tents at a refugee camp in the village of Yorkishlak on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border on June 18, 2010. (REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov)

A Kyrgyz Interior Ministry forces officer conducts house-to-house searches in the Anoshin neighborhood in the city of Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan, Monday, June 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Alexander Merkushev)

More at The Big Picture.

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Friday Errata (I wonder when Gaga will become muzak?)

Posted in afghanistan, japan, kyrgyzstan, united states by Karaka on 18 June 2010

A couple of links for this astonishingly un-rainy Friday morning:

It still feels like a weirdly slow news day, though.

Monday Errata

Posted in afghanistan, kyrgyzstan, united states, us defense, us military by Karaka on 14 June 2010

If you haven’t yet read it, zen’s interview with Steven Pressfield is a worthy read. It’s also nice to see Mark talk a little about himself, which we don’t see much in his blog! For good reason, of course, but it’s also nice to know the person behind the mind.

Thunder Run has an interview up with Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger on Restrepo.

The film is very balanced and doesn’t lead you, but rather just shows you how it is. Could you describe whether you had any guiding principles about how/what you shot as well as how you edited, how you shaped the film ultimately?

Sebastian: We were not interested in the political dimensions of the war, only the experience of the soldiers, so we limited ourselves to the things soldiers had access to. We did not ask any generals why they were in the Korengal, for example, because soldiers don’t have that opportunity, either. Our guiding principle was that we would only have people in the movie who were fighting in the Korengal. It was that principle that excluded Tim and me from the movie as well… and prevented us from using an outside narrator.

Tim: It was a conscious choice. We are journalists, and as such, we are not supposed to “lead” people to a certain opinion. That is called “advocacy,” and it certainly has its special place in the media world, but as journalists, it’s not something we wanted to engage in.

Also, here’s a counter review on War that speaks very negatively of the book–I called it “delightfully scathing” in the comments to my review at SWJ (hey, give them money, won’t you?), which I still think is true on the re-read. I mean, I think the author of the review, Lewis Manalo, is generally barking up the wrong tree, but he makes some strong points. Points I disagree with, but strong nonetheless.

I’m following Registan’s thorough coverage of the situation in Kyrgyzstan; it remains one of the best english-language sites for updated information. If only I read Cyrillic. The Post this morning picks up the story, noting:

Kyrgyzstan’s own security forces have failed to contain a rising tide of ethnic violence in the south, where more than 100 people have been killed since fighting began Thursday night, according to the country’s health ministry. The officials say the death toll could be considerably higher, as the current count includes only the dead at hospitals and morgues.

Around 75,000 people have now fled fighting into neighboring Uzbekistan, Russia’s official news agency said, citing the Uzbek government.

Kyrgyzstan has contacted Russia, asking for military assistance, but so far Russia has only provided minimal aid. As Christian and Michael at Registan note, what we know is what we don’t know, and conspiracy theories are worming their way outward at a rapid pace.

More pictures of FETs in action (h/t Akinoluna as per usual).

Must read article I haven’t had time to read yet: Dexter Filkin’s portrait of a wavering Karzai.

And–this one is just for you, Chris Albon–the New York Times suddenly discovers there are lucrative minerals in Afghanistan! Which have been a known property for at least thirty years! Shocking. Film at eight.

One Time Too Many

Posted in kyrgyzstan by Karaka on 11 June 2010

Kyrgyzstan erupted in violence late last night, resulting in at least 37 dead in the city of Osh, the second largest city in the nation. It’s not entirely clear what caused the rioting–though Interim President Roza Otunbayeva was quick to suggest Bakiyev loyalists–but Kyrgyzstan is a complex nation (aren’t they all). From the NYT out of Moscow:

But the region’s political conflicts are often laced with ethnic enmity, and some witnesses and local news outlets suggested that the violence started as a fight between groups of young Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, perhaps backed by opposing political forces.

“Everything happened suddenly,” Babur Bolshov, 28, a teacher and ethnic Uzbek, said by telephone. “A group of young Kyrgyz were going around with bottles of gasoline and burning homes where Uzbeks live and kiosks and supermarkets owned by Uzbeks.”

Gunfire and violence caused the interim government to declare a state of emergency and send in troops enforce peace and curfew for residents; Otunbayeva give a appeal to cease conflict alongside these efforts.

In one sense, it’s a little reassuring to see that the interim government has a handle on government services and can work to effectively utilize and enforce them; on the other, violence with these consequences so soon after the April riots does not speak well of its handle on its people. The numbers of dead and wounded have risen throughout the day; the likelihood of ethnic conflict continuing (which this probably is) remains high going into the weekend.

ETA: For more see Registan.

Brick by Brick

Posted in afghanistan, kyrgyzstan by Karaka on 7 June 2010

Ouch. Kyrgyzstan’s interim government has taken its first casualty:

Edil Baisalov’s departure from the government renews concerns about political stability in this volatile Central Asian nation, which was shaken earlier this year by a mass revolt that led to the toppling of then-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

“First of all, I am interested in seeing the events of April 7 through to their logical conclusion,” Baisalov told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “In the popular uprising, we kicked out Bakiyev’s corrupt family. … Now we must return Kyrgyzstan to the path of democracy.”

…Baisalov criticized appointments made by the provisional government and complained that corruption remained rampant.

He intends to start his own party, which will probably be for the best in general for Kyrgyz democracy; but sowing dissent only a couple of months after Bakiyev’s ousting signals instability in the otherwise publicly unified government.

From New Eurasia (h/t Josh Foust), Kyrgyzstan’s Special Women and Tactics Team:

According to Ferghana.ru, SWAT teams or the “revolutionists” (as they call themselves) are “a group of marginalized women, used by authorities as crowds during rallies”. Most of the time they are an active part of a crowd heating up the situation and keeping it on the edge of a spontaneous conflict. SWAT teams are not an established institute of some sort, but rather, a group of women on a local level (province, district), size of which can vary depending on circumstances and objectives. However, core of the group remains the same – locals know who they are and their whereabouts. Some suggest that core of a team can work outside the province/village of origin.

Former deputy head of National Security Service of Kyrgyzstan described the work of these teams to New Times as “quick and effective enough, creating necessary conditions in the crowd”. Their effectiveness and speed were well demonstrated during several takeovers of the Jalal-Abad province administration and province TV station buildings on April 17 as well as other numerous rallies around the country.

Interesting. And a clever tactic; the article goes on to describe the rationale behind using such SWAT teams, including the perception that police won’t shoot at women. It’s curious to see the power Kyrgyz women wield in the situation, and how that power is directed by an exterior authority.

Also, rough day for NATO in Afghanistan; 10 dead in several different attacks over the course of the day.

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Spring Awakening

Posted in kyrgyzstan, united states by Karaka on 5 May 2010

Kyrgyzstan has largely waned from the Western news, as the interim government seems to be sticking and former President Bakiyev is sheltered by Belarus. Still, a news item pops up every couple of days. From the NYT, Kyrgyzstan Opens an Inquiry Into Fuel Sales to a U.S. Base:

The investigation focuses on Maksim Bakiyev, the 32-year-old son of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in an uprising last month in which opposition to corruption was a rallying cry.

Prosecutors are examining whether the elder Mr. Bakiyev’s government broke the law in granting tax breaks to companies that eventually became affiliated with his son, the Interfax news agency reported.

Leaders of Kyrgyzstan’s interim government have said that Maksim Bakiyev’s companies skimmed as much as $8 million a month from fuel sales to the base. That charge and other corruption allegations contributed to the uprising that drove his father from office.

Kyrgyz officials have also accused the United States of using the fuel distribution system to curry favor with Kurmanbek Bakiyev in order to hold on to the air base, but the prosecutors have not alleged wrongdoing by the Pentagon, according to the Interfax report.

So who are they accusing, if not the agency that assists in co-ordinating resources for the base? Just the US in general? That’ll go far. The subcomittee on National Security oversight held a hearing on the Kyrgyzstan fuel contracts last month, and it will probably get picked up again in the future, especially if Kyrgyzstan keeps in a flap about it. But the interim government has asserted its commitment to upholding the lease with the USAF for Manas, so one wonders just how far any investigation will go. At the very least, the interim government could insist on more oversight from both the US and Kyrgyzstan in the awarding of contracts, but since the main source of state nepotism has been removed, that might come anyway as the interim government strives for transparency and adherence to its promises.

The BBC also reports the rise of of ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan:

But some who tried to seek help from the police and did not get a response quickly enough are unconvinced.

They are the residents of Mayevka, a village near Bishkek populated mainly by people of Russian and Turkic origin.

On 19 April, almost two weeks after the anti-government protests, an angry mob numbering in their thousands overran this village. Five people were killed and several homes were destroyed.

Most of the houses belonged to Meskhetian Turks – originally from Georgia, they were deported to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin in 1944.

and

Dozens of men and women are still occupying land near the village.

They have demanded that the interim government, led by Roza Otunbayeva, give them land.

“We are the sons of Kyrgyzstan. Turks have seized our land, but the land is ours, is it not?” said Syimyk, one of the protesters.

I’d be really interested to know whether the interim government considers this acceptable opportunism in light of the claims made before and during the overthrow of the previous government, or if this is just one more issue to worry about in a long line of issues Otunbayeva et al are trying to work through.

Elections are in October. It’s going to be a long summer.

Slingshot politics

A lot to cover today.

I got oversaturated pretty quickly with information and speculation about the Times Square bombing, but I recommend Kings of War, All Things Counterterrorism, and obviously LWJ for the story. And Steve Coll has some perspective:

Anyone who tries to set a vehicle on fire in Times Square on a warm Saturday night is going to make news in a big way. Presumably that was the primary goal of the perpetrators—to attract attention, to spawn fear. The very amateurishness of the attack—unlike the Christmas Day attack, for example, it does not immediately call into question the competence of the government’s defenses—offers President Obama the opportunity to start talking back to terrorists everywhere in a more resilient, sustainable language than he has yet discovered. By which I mean: They intend to frighten us; we are not frightened. They intend to kill and maim; we will bring them to justice. They intend to attract attention for their extremist views; the indiscriminate nature of their violence only discredits and isolates them.

Secdef Gates delivered some mixed news to the Navy this morning (full remarks h/t DoDBuzz):

“Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?” Gates asked. “Any future plans must address these realities.”

In a pointed speech about the future of the naval arsenal, the secretary told a gathering of naval officers and contractors that no U.S. adversaries are attempting to out-build the U.S. fleet. Rather, he said, they are developing other ways to neutralize U.S. power. He cited Hezbollah’s anti-ship missiles and Iran’s use of everything from cruise missiles to “swarming speedboats.”

In response, he called for more shallow-water capabilities, long-range drones and sea-based missile defenses.

What’s the saying, fighting the next war while you’re still building for the last one? That seems to be the idea Gates is battling.

Two bits on Kyrgyzstan, which has kind of dropped off the face of news coverage in the last several days. First, the interim government has turned the state-run KTR television channel into a public broadcasting station, which is effectively a show of faith from the interim government to show Kyrgyzs that it’s going to keep the promises it made. Which is great, but more than anything I really love the picture that accompanied the article, reposted here.

The interim government has also authorized cash rewards in exchange for information that helps capture the former government’s leadership, presumably to answer for crimes committed.

Of interest, AFRICOM is undergoing a three-week Operation Flintlock as part of its The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. It’s effectively a military exercise designed to train partner African nations in counterterrorism programs as a deterrent method. At least twelve nations and 1200 people are involved. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

From Diplopundit, it’s been a tough time for mandarins as of late.

And finally, I’m reading Paul Scharre’s article in the AFJ about meeting needs for irregular and conventional warfare in the Army. More thoughts when I’m finished reading, but figured the COINers and anti-COINers would be interested.

Puts new meaning to “the gilded cage”

Posted in kyrgyzstan by Karaka on 27 April 2010

The BBC seems to be my only consistent updater of news in English relating to Kyrgyzstan; if someone has additional sources that I can read I’d be keen to have them. Despite Bakiyev’s statement refusing to meet charges applied to him in his home nation, he has since been charged in absentia, which is not terribly surprising.

The interim government says his administration ordered troops to open fire on protesters.

“We will seek extradition of Bakiyev to Bishkek and bringing him to criminal responsibility,” Mr Beknazarov said.

Kyrgyzstan is, of course, of strategic importance to both Russia–which seems to be a bit effed off by Bakiyev and attempting to solidify favor with the interim government by returning the Kyrgyz foreign minister–and the United States–which has said, well, nothing that I’ve seen, or at least very little. The Air Force transit center at Manas is of value for its proximity to other states in Central Asia, and though the US almost lost the lease to the place last year, it was renewed and the current interim government has stated (according to a report I read but apparently cannot find right now) that it intends to honour that arrangement.

It’s interesting to watch Russia make such a clear political play and then watch the US bench themselves. Either way, this whole Bakiyev story keeps getting, well, more off-beat. Apparently the former President had himself a little menagerie going on:

A pair of snow leopards and two bear cubs were among the exotic animals found in the private zoo of ousted Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

A golden eagle, two falcons, four African peacocks and Indian ducks were also found in the zoo at the family home in the southern Jalalabad region.

Taxpayer dollars at work.

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